This is an entirely personal posting of no particular value to anybody this morning. But it does include an explanation and an apology, along with a couple of deeply important, public notes of gratitude. I have finally finished an enormous project that has taken over two years to complete, and the manuscript has at last been sent to the printer this week. If all goes well and according to plan, the new book will be available as of Indiana's Founders' Day event on January 13, 2018. It is titled, Heritage Endures: Perspectives On 200 Years Of Indiana Freemasonry and has been written to coincide with the bicentennial celebration of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM.
This volume is quite deliberately not like most grand lodge history books you may have encountered in the past, because I tried to step back and examine Indiana Freemasonry and its place within the wider historic Masonic and American cultural landscape. If you're thinking endless pages filled with lodge names and this or that famous local citizen/Mason, we've had two of those in Indiana already. Freemasonry has been shaped and shoved around by what has gone on in the outside world ever since it began, and I believe it is vital to understand how and why things happened precisely when they did, instead of some dry recitation of lodge charterings and rule changes and membership numbers. We can't learn from the past if we don't know what came before us. I also went back and filled in some big blank areas that were missing from Daniel McDonald's History of Freemasonry In Indiana (1898) and Dwight Smith's Goodly Heritage (1968). It's a threatening sword to have suspended over your head knowing you're writing a book that will sit on a shelf next to those two incredible research volumes. I'll leave it to others to decide whether mine has been a worthwhile exercise, as I have lost all hope of objectivity.
(And yes, at over 500 pages, I already know there will be detractors who label it "Hodapp Endured..." or "Heritage Unendurable." I figure if I just say it now, I can claim the gags myself.)
I have no idea how the Grand Lodge intends to make this book available—especially for orders from outside of the state—but those details will be worked out by January and I will post that information here as I know it. My guess is that it will not be available through Amazon, for a wide variety of practical reasons. But we'll see as things progress.
Now that I can concentrate on something besides the actual manuscript, I will be making some of the resources I found or created for the book available on the Grand Lodge website, the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana site, as well as providing information to the Indiana Historical Society and the State Museum about Indiana Masonry they were unaware of. There will be some tie-in projects popping up as I can get to them.
Anyway, the apology goes to the many brethren over the last year or so who have had phone calls unreturned and emails unanswered; to all those who forwarded copies of their new books to me expecting at least an acknowledgement of some kind; to those whose events I have missed (I was expecting to be in Louisville this weekend for SRICF annual meeting, but I had to bail out at literally the very last minute); and to everyone else who figured I fell off the face of the Earth. I promise, it was not intentional. We now turn right around at dawn on Monday morning and Alice has knee replacement surgery, which also means missing little stuff like Christmas with my family in California.
However, the one upside of being Alice's only available "caregiver" 24 hours a day for a couple of months is that I at last get to read for pleasure again, and I have quite a swollen stack of untouched books and journals in the corner that has been growing ever since last year. (I just now turned the entire stack over so they are in order of how they came in; I'm starting with my friend Piers Vaughan's Renaissance Man & Mason which he handed me on October 5th of LAST year.) So, I will hopefully start getting to post some reviews here as the holiday season approaches.
The thanks I mentioned up at the top go first and foremost to MW Rodney A. Mann, this year's Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Indiana, and my friend for almost twenty years. He and PGM William Reiners both started asking for this book to be written nearly four years ago, and I spent two of those years bullheadedly turning them down when I should have been working. All along, Rodney placed an unbelievable amount of trust in my personal judgement. I want to stress that particular point: he has never attempted to filter anything I was writing, anything I was including or leaving out, or shape or censor anything in any way. The opinions and choices in the book are mine, not the Grand Lodge's, even though they are publishing it. Not many authors of these types of works get to have that sort of total freedom. So if somebody gets mad and wants to write hate mail over what's in it, send your messages to me, not to the Grand Secretary's office.
I also want to especially thank Wanda Smith in our Grand Secretary's office for helping with some of the most tedious and hard to find information in the book. Hers is the irreplaceable institutional memory for this fraternity of men, most of whom have never heard her name before. She has been a godsend and saved me weeks of work.
I also want to publicly thank WB Chris Kimmel of Vincennes Lodge No. 1 who literally bailed me out of a huge jam of my own making, literally under the gun and in no time flat. Both Chris and my friend of more than 40 years, WB Nathan Brindle, kept me honest and were kind enough to burrow in one weekend and check me one last time.
Finally, if you've managed to make it through this maudlin, self-indulgent post thus far, bear with one final message of gratitude. The statistics rolled over early this morning on this blog site and alerted me to something. Since January 7, 2006, I've written 2,890 posts here. Blogger only started calculating page views in May 2010, so I don't know about the first four and a half years. But since May 2010, there have been more than 8 million views of the Freemasons For Dummies blog, with almost 5,000 yesterday alone. So my ultimate thanks go to each of you who keep coming back. That never ceases to be amazing to me, and humbling in the extreme. I hope you will continue to find something worthwhile here.